How talking therapies can help a person who has dementia

Advice about how speaking to a therapist could benefit someone with a dementia diagnosis.


‘My uncle’s GP told him that he may be depressed – could counselling help him, even though he was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year?’ 


Your uncle may benefit from counselling or one of the many other types of ‘talking therapy’. Which type depends on what your uncle wants to get out of it, and how his dementia affects his ability to take part in it. 

Talking therapy could give your uncle the chance to speak openly about his thoughts and emotions, and it could help him adjust to living with dementia. 

These therapies are generally more effective for a person in the early or middle stages of dementia. In the later stages, more problems with communication, attention and memory can make it harder to benefit from them.

Types of talking therapy 

There are many types of counselling. They all aim to help a person to better understand their problems and explore how to manage them. Counselling is often used to help someone cope with difficult events, and it can help them to feel less depressed. 

Another range of talking therapies – psychotherapy – can help a person understand how their personality and beliefs influence their thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour. This can then change how they think, feel and behave. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a popular type of psychotherapy that many people with dementia have found helpful. 

Making therapy work 

Different types of talking therapy ask the person to think about and discuss ideas and feelings in different ways. 

Dementia can affect how well your uncle’s able to do this, but there may be ways to make it easier for him, such as by making the sessions shorter.

For CBT sessions, using memory aids such as cue cards could help.

If your uncle was happy for you or another relative or friend to attend sessions with him, you could help him practise strategies or approaches that he’s agreed to try afterwards. 

How to get therapy 

Your uncle’s GP should be able to give him details about therapists in his area, and some GP surgeries have talking therapy services based onsite. 

Talking therapies are usually free of charge through the NHS, though there can be a long waiting list.

Some local charities and faith groups may also offer talking therapies or informal support services.

Another option may be to find a private therapist, who’ll charge a fee. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy can help you find a qualified therapist who’s registered with them. 

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Dementia together magazine: Dec 20/Jan 21

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now